A Comparative Study And The Morality Behind It: Convicts As Labor Force

Convicts As Labor Force

Is it a fair solution for the convicts?

A person who has been convicted of a crime in a court of law is a convict. When someone says they are doing “penal labour,” they are usually referring to manual labour that is done by inmates or convicts.

Despite the fact that it might be described in this way, forced labour is not always used as a means of punishing criminals. Together with receiving compensation, it might serve as the prisoners’ occupation. Punitive labour is what the former is known as, and non-punitive labour is what the latter is.

Using convicts as labourers rarely or never causes a problem. Yet, the position shifts when forced labour, or modern slavery, is being practised.

The situation of penal labour in Malaysia is examined in this article along with comparisons to other nations. It specifically strives to discuss the pay that prisoners receive while they are employed, the overall treatment of the prisoners, and—possibly most importantly—the original reason that convicts are hired in these countries.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), incarcerated workers—another term for hired convicts—are frequently deprived of their protections against abuse and exploitation at work and are frequently completely at the mercy of their employers.

According to a recent study by the ACLU, even with the earnings provided by their employers, 70% of the convicts could not afford even their own basic necessities.

64% of them are also worried about their safety at work, which is another concern. Both of these numbers demonstrate that more than half of these jailed workers are not receiving enough pay and conventional workplace protections, perhaps due to the fact that their employers just view them as inmates.

A criminal conviction disqualifies a person from being protected from slavery and involuntary servitude under Article 13 of the US Constitution.

However, a staggering 76% of participants in a poll by the Bureau of Justice Statistics claimed that if they refused to labour, they ran the risk of receiving further punishments like isolation, loss of visitation rights, and finally, fewer chances to get their sentences reduced.

The workers were essentially left with little choice but to accept the task that was assigned to them. There have been instances of prison labour even in India.

The court cited section 53 of the Indian Criminal Code in the case of Poola Bhaskara Vijayakumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr, which stipulates that offenders are subject to either imprisonment with hard labour or imprisonment without hard labour.

But, no law in India permits a State to order a prisoner to perform hard labour without first receiving paid for doing so. Because of this, the courts have interpreted this to mean that it is against the prisoners’ rights if the State does not compensate them for the labour they perform while they are in custody.

As a result, orders have been issued requiring the defendant to adequately compensate the prisoners for their labour.

Penal labour is covered by a few clauses of the Prison Act of 1995 of Malaysia.

As in section 47(1), it is specified that a prisoner serving their sentence must perform prison labour at an association, outside the cell, or beyond the prison’s boundaries that have been permitted by the Director General.

Prisons have become a new source of labour in this area where there appears to be a labour shortage. The employment of criminals would help to rehabilitate them into society while keeping them from a criminal relapse, according to Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan, head of the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (PRESMA).

To put it another way, it is a means of demonstrating their deserving for a second opportunity at life as contributing members of society.

The punishments of criminals cannot continue indefinitely, according to Zarina Ismail, head of the National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (PUSMA), and assistance must be provided to them if they are to be reintegrated into society.

According to a study led by Yusuff Jelili Amuda titled Economic Benefit and Implication of Exploring Prisoners Employment: Scholars Perspective for Case of the Nigerian Inmates in Malaysia, the majority of respondents support the idea of prison labour because of the socioeconomic advantages it provides to society. Being an ex-offender raises issues, though.

According to Ding Hong Sing, president of the SME Association of Malaysia, there is a common bad perception of those with criminal histories, which could have an impact on their self-confidence at work.

Thus, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan suggested that prison records be kept private and restricted to particular government agencies including the police.

At this point, the legal aspect of the situation becomes relevant. Discussions about human rights usually include the issue of jail labour.

Experts such as Jerome Shestack defines rights as entitlement, immunity, privilege, and power. Human rights, according to him, are fundamental freedoms that exist regardless of one’s social situation and are inherent to all people.

A right is classified as an “important” human right based on its intrinsic value, practical value, importance to a system of rights, ability to outweigh competing interests, and significance as a foundational principle for life.

According to him, contemporary human rights describe rights as ideas of basic needs. In a moral community, it is a prerequisite for what it means to be a human.

Wesley Hohfeld is another expert in human rights. In order to analyse rights and describe the types of rights that are generally acknowledged, one method is the Hohfeldian system, which bears his name.

It explains that rights have four components: privilege, claim, authority, and immunity. Prisoners are also people, and although they are housed in a facility, they should still have access to their fundamental human rights.

Giving people the option to choose whether or not to work is a fundamental human right, according to Jerome Shestack, who asserts that all people have these rights by virtue of being alive.

When we move past that, it is a basic human right for a person to choose where to work.

This is why it is vital for prisoners to be given a choice on whether to be employed or not and for them to be assigned to workplaces with their consent. If these are not fulfilled, then it would only be suitable to call prison labour as modern slavery which already exists in the US based on the statistics given above.

 Slavery is when an individual is owned by another. Modern slavery is when an individual is exploited by others for personal or commercial gain, as defined by Anti-Slavery International.

Hence, when a convict is used by employers or the prison department or any other body for commercial gain, it must be taken as modern slavery at face value.

To sum up, integrating prisoners and ex-convicts into the workforce is a well-intentioned concept that has numerous social and economic advantages in addition to promoting the welfare of the prisoner.

To ensure that all records are kept confidential and that the inmates are assigned to fields that are a good fit for their expertise, the government must have a properly thought-out plan in place.

Most significantly, in order to guarantee a healthy employment, the government must gain the approval of all participating convicts voluntarily and without pressure or duress.

This is done to guarantee that all prisoners and ex-prisoners have access to even the most fundamental human rights.

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